Governor Mike Pence Thursday proudly touted Indiana’s continued fiscal strength as he closed the books on the fiscal year. But that strength has Democrats wondering why Pence continues to order state agencies to cut their budgets.
Indiana finished its 2015 fiscal year with a $210 million surplus, helping increase budget reserves to more than $2.1 billion. But state agencies reverted $133 million, meaning if the governor hadn’t required agencies to send any money back, the state still would’ve had a surplus.
Members of the public Friday got their last chance to weigh in on the budget bill this session. Retiree advocates made a plea for more spending even as a gloomy new revenue forecast has lawmakers looking to cut money out of their budget proposals.
The so-called “13th check” is an additional yearly benefit for retired public employees and teachers. The amount can range from $150-$450.
The Senate Republican budget proposal mirrors its House counterpart in setting aside $400 million for future road projects. The chamber's budget leader says he’d like to keep that money in state coffers the next two years.
In the 2013 budget, lawmakers created the Major Moves 2020 fund that put aside $400 million for future projects. But the Pence administration, with State Budget Committee approval, took that money and spent it on road projects over the last two years.
The Senate released its version of the state budget Thursday, outlining a method to fund schools different from that proposed by the House.
There are two pots of money when it comes to school funding: foundation and complexity. Foundation is the amount of money the state gives every student. Complexity is the money allocated toward low-income students.
The biggest difference between the House and Senate budgets is how a student qualifies for complexity money.
House Democrats say the state budget proposed by House Republicans will devastate many public schools throughout the state. The budget passed overwhelmingly in a House vote Tuesday.
House Republicans named education their top focus this session, and the bulk of debate over the budget revolves around education funding.
Specifically, it involves changes to the school funding formula that seek to help growing, wealthier suburban school districts. But those changes would mean significantly less money for poor, inner city schools that are losing students.
House Republican budget architect Tim Brown says his caucus’ proposed budget will include more money spent on education than ever before in state history. The House GOP’s budget proposal was unveiled Monday.
House Republican leaders have said for months that education was their top priority this session and that they planned a significant increase in funding for K through 12 schools.
To that end, House Ways and Means Chair Tim Brown says, under the House GOP budget, schools would get $469 million more over the next two years than they did in the last state budget.
Despite tax revenues that struggled for much of the fiscal year, Indiana closes its book with a surplus of more than $100 million and reserves topping $2 billion. But Democrats say the state is hoarding money to make its bottom line look good.
Going into the final month of the fiscal year, Indiana was about $50 million short of expectations. But a strong June helped the state end the year about $13 million above projected levels. Still, Indiana brought in nearly $60 million less this year than last year.